Resilience – The capacity to recover from difficult times; regaining our ability to thrive after having been through something.
The holiday season is complete and I confess to a grief I feel at the end of each Christmas. While I have my share of melancholy during the season, I hold tight to any goodness I find in each year’s celebration. My faith (a focus of the season for me) is important, I treasure the extra time with family, and see extra portions of goodwill all around. After this surge of joy, there’s a sense of loss when it’s over. The grief is followed by a bracing for what’s to come. Another year. Even without a pessimistic outlook, reality dictates that life can have its ups and downs. That’s why resilience becomes a focal point in my efforts toward mindful living.
I am always briefly breathless from the roller coaster ride of thoughts and feelings that carry the end of one year into the next. As a therapist I have the inside track on emotion regulation, though am not insulated from the waves of feeling that come with being human. It also doesn’t stop life from happening. My only resolve is to remain resilient. In fact, I gave up setting other New Year’s resolutions long ago. It can be growth-stunting to hold positive change hostage to a calendar. To forego the burden of setting resolutions only at the New Year creates a relief. Bringing balance to the expectations for our life frees us up to strengthen our core self – the wellspring from which our resilience flows.
How do we develop a resilient self? While traits existing at birth make a contribution to resilience, we know it can be developed in most everyone. Cultivating such fortitude can seem a complicated task, but is certainly doable.
Bringing balance to the expectations for our life frees us up to strengthen our core self – the wellspring from which our resilience flows.
Try building a foundation with the following steps:
1): Develop the mindset: Decide that you want for yourself the strength and tenacity to overcome. Choose resilience. Intention can be the cornerstone of psychological survival. If you’re reading this, you’ve taken a step toward shaping your mindset for thriving on life’s journey. Make it a daily habit to speak the intent of resilience each morning.
2): Forgive yourself: If you perceive failing at resilience, don’t hold a grudge. Have the crying spell, spend the Sunday afternoon wrapped up in a blanket doing absolutely nothing, allow yourself to feel all the painful emotions that arise from challenging events. None of this means you aren’t resilient. It just means you’re human. After such collapse as comes with a breaking point, pick yourself up and try again. One of the most important features of learning to walk when we were young was the developed skill of getting back up when we would fall.
3): Determination: Disallow the belief that you are forever defined or permanently damaged by any adversity or trauma you’ve experienced. Remind yourself that the positive traits you possessed before the struggles are not erased by the stress presented in the difficult situation. Look for reminders of your best self – a self that has been purposefully developed – one of hopefulness and determination. If this has been a challenge for you, begin now to identify those skills and principles you desire.
4): Seek examples: Make it a habit to seek out examples of others practicing the resilience you crave. Take time each week to seek out inspiring news stories, read about someone who has overcome the odds, or journal memories of your own victories (even the small ones) and recall them when tough times return.
5): Emotion Regulation: Keep it in check. Letting your emotions dictate the intensity of your actions can have both psychological and physical repercussions. Try calibrating your perspective. Use the “kitten or tiger” lens to view situations. If it’s a kitten, use only the amount of physical and emotional energy needed to rebuke its effects. If it is indeed a tiger of a situation, seek support from others to help you in the battle. Whenever possible, shift your focus to more positive connections (friends, church groups, community organizations that inspire positivity). Use perspective to temper emotions.
6): Value the stillness: There is power in the quiet times of our lives. Do your best to find a moment of stillness every day. Spend 15 minutes each day if you can, quiet and still. Be determined about this one valuable act of self-care. Find a place of solitary – under a tree, on the porch, anywhere you can – and close your eyes. Let the chaos of your life wash through you and float away. Imagine yourself being filled with the strength and determination you seek. Notice the quiet. Replenish.
My profession has allowed me to witness people overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. I’m convinced the human spirit is mostly veiled in the power to overcome. Give your spirit the chance to flex its strength. In the coming year, give yourself the gift of remaining resolute in your resilience.
This information is not intended to replace the medical advice or treatment of a trained professional. If you find yourself struggling to manage challenging thoughts or moods during this time of year, contact your primary care physician or seek the support of a licensed mental health professional.